Nothing like bad news to drive a message home

(Trigger warning for poor obstetrical outcome)

Less than one week after I blogged about the maternal mortality crisis among black women in our country, I lost a friend. She was of Haitian descent, a fellow medical student, an aspiring ob/gyn, and a kind and wonderful person. She was eight months pregnant with her first baby, and newly married. We talked for a while last week about her taking time off, breastfeeding, and pumping when she got back to rotations. She was incredibly happy about becoming a mother.

She went into premature labor this weekend. She had a hemorrhagic stroke. She died. The baby is doing fine.

This was not an underprivileged woman by most definitions, at least not currently. She may have been raised in an impoverished home. The Haitian population in South Florida in general is devastatingly poor. She was well educated. She was not “advanced maternal age”. She was not a teen mother. She was not obese. She had good prenatal care and insurance. She had family support and was happy about her pregnancy. As far as I know, she had no health conditions, didn’t smoke, and didn’t do any drugs.

But, she was a black woman in America, which puts her at much higher risk of premature labor and death. In recent years, the maternal mortality rate for black women in Miami has been up to 10 times that of white women. We don’t completely understand why. Different delivery of care, early life malnutrition or lack of health care, the stress of racism, biological or genetic differences…these all may play a role.

But, right now what we do know is that a baby is born without a mother, and a husband is welcoming a new baby in his life with a dead wife, and no mother to help raise it. That is a horrible shame.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Nothing like bad news to drive a message home

  1. Hilary, I’m so sorry for your loss and for what your friend’s baby and partner are going through. My condolences.

  2. My heart hurts, and my thoughts go out to the family. I’m so sorry.

  3. Maud

    I’m so sorry, MomTFH. What a heartbreaking situation.

  4. I am so very sorry that you have lost your friend, and that her family will have to carry on without her. I cannot imagine anything more wrenching for her husband and other loved ones.

  5. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. So incredibly sad for her family and the people who cared about her.

  6. Phledge

    I am sorry for your loss, and for the fact that our profession needs to be reminded that there is such a disparity. Hugs to you, and best thoughts to the family.

  7. I’m sorry for your loss of a friend, and for the family’s loss.

  8. Laura

    How awful and so sad. I’m sorry.

  9. I am so sorry to hear about your friend. I have noticed that, many black women I have taken care of spike real high blood pressures. I notice this because I sit by there bed worried sick. I would watch these folks all night long. And I would give them powerful medications to ward off problems. Worried about stroke. I strongly believe more research needs to be done on black folks and CVA. Again, I am so sorry about your friend.

  10. My heart is so saddened to hear about this, and it breaks for the family in particular. What a terrible, shocking tragedy.

    I wish we understood this issue better so we could change things. I hope you and your classmates are able to find some answers when you are doctors.

  11. MomTFH

    Thanks to everyone who replied.

    It is really tragic. I talked to the ob/gyn with whom the medical student was rotating today (she was not treating her pregnancy) a little about it, and don’t really have any more answers. It seems that she had the stroke and possibly even died before even making it to the hospital, and may not have gone into labor. She was 32, maybe 33 weeks pregnant, so the baby is pretty premature. I thought she was closer to 36 weeks, but I was mistaken.

    She told me that her husband wants us to come to her funeral in our white coats. That made me cry for the first time since I heard she died.

    I don’t understand it. I know these things can be really predictable and unfair. We lost a resident at our hospital just this month from a brain aneurysm -> hemorrhagic stroke already. I know this stuff is random, but why did lightning strike twice, so soon?

  12. Oh Hilary, I’m so sorry. This is just awful. My heart is heavy for you and her family.

  13. I am sorry, Hilary. This loss is so very sad. Deepest sympathy to you and to the little family, and wishes for a strong little baby to do well.

  14. Melissa Travis

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I am so sorry that you are grieving your friend. All life is sacred and that is a very sad loss for everyone.
    -Melissa

  15. Pingback: Putting it in persepctive « Mom’s Tinfoil Hat

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